What is a Rolling Forecast and Is It Right for Your Business?

What is a Rolling Forecast and Is It Right for Your Business?

Modern FP&A teams are automating the rolling forecast process and ditching the outdated static forecasting method.

Long ago, the FP&A forecasting process moved from a static forecast exercise to dynamic advantage. Trying to adapt to changing business needs requires the ability to quickly move money and resources to areas where they’ll do the most good. And, because allocations fixed in a January annual plan are invalid just a few weeks or months later, the dynamic forecasting model eliminated that frustration.

Now, more businesses are also moving away from a static forecasting method. Those fixed projections just aren’t helpful to your business, especially in today’s fast-moving world. Even the most predictable business models are impacted by outside forces, such as supply chain disruptions, departing workers, changing customer demands, or competitive moves. So, it’s difficult to manage a business, or even a department, with a static forecast that quickly goes stale. 

Modern businesses are adopting dynamic, rolling forecasts to adjust their predictions more often. By reevaluating forecasts every 30 to 90 days and providing visibility with a longer runway, a rolling financial forecast can better reflect what is happening in the business and the market.

Rolling Updates Drive a Rolling Forecast

With a rolling forecast model, you revisit and adjust forecast assumptions at set intervals. Regardless if your financial forecasts look out a month, quarter, or year, they’re all updated each interval by the rolling forecast software. This gives you a chance to incorporate recent results, competitive changes, or new information to improve the accuracy of your forecasts. 

A rolling financial forecast is also untethered from fiscal or tax year cycles. This puts rolling forecasts more in line with today’s business environment of uncertainty and constant change. But, while they may seem daunting, rolling forecasts are easy to incorporate into your current FP&A process flow while helping transform your business into an agile, strategic competitor that acts with more confidence.

Benefits of Rolling Forecast Models: Agility for Adapting to Constant Change

Traditional forecasting gives you a static forecast on which to base plans, budgets, and strategic decisions over the next few months or quarters. But this blocks you from continually adapting your business to the current reality. The result is a reactive business that scrambles to identify and adjust to even the smallest of changes. 

If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that change is inevitable and can be enormous. A static forecasting method doesn’t work in a world that can change overnight. In order to make sound financial decisions, you need up-to-date insights based on up-to-date forecasts with short and long term visibility. Current information gives you the confidence to quickly reallocate resources to address disruptions in supply chains, labor shortages, or anything else. But, to do so also requires the agility that comes with rolling forecasts. 

Rolling Forecast Advantages: Current Insights for Better Strategic Decisions

Rolling forecasts inform budget creators with current insights so they can adjust and reallocate financial resources as business strategies demand. More accurate forecasts also enable business leaders to see and recognize the impact of market changes before it’s too late, giving them time to adjust strategies today instead of next month or quarter.

Sports fans know, if you see the defense shift strategy, you don’t run the same play knowing it’s going to fail. You adjust, adapt, and shift your strategy to fit what’s going on right now. The same holds true in business, and it’s up to the FP&A forecasting process to keep the business informed with current, accurate information. The business can quickly adjust their own strategies, and see why businesswide strategy changes are being made. It not only puts your decision-makers in the game, it eliminates their need to protect budgets because they see the strategic value in how resources are allocated. 

Transform How Your Business Forecasts with a Rolling Forecast Process

Mark Cohen, VP of Finance at Thule, used rolling forecasts as a way to transform how their business operates. “We have a forecast that people can actually sit down and discuss with better visibility into important issues related to customers, promotions, and expense management, among others.” 

You don’t need to spend weeks producing financial forecasts which are quickly ignored, or worse, followed blindly as your business struggles to adapt. Instead, spend your valuable time raising the financial IQ of the business so they can make better decisions. 

A modern business can’t be well-run on static forecasts built on static spreadsheets. For today’s businesses, rolling financial forecasts help you more accurately allocate future funds, and give you the insights needed to quickly respond to change. 

If you’re stuck on a static forecasting method, Planful’s FP&A software can help. Our rolling forecasts capabilities let you forecast continually with ease. You can automatically roll-forward current forecasts to streamline and speed new forecast creation. It adds intuitive collaboration tools so you can work alongside the business to inform budgets, build plans, and drive strategic decisions. And, it brings flexible workflows to standardize budgeting and financial forecasting processes, keep everyone in sync and on deadline, and reinforce reviews and approvals for increased accuracy.

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From M&A to FP&A: Keith Kim, Planful’s VP of Finance, on the Being Planful Podcast

From M&A to FP&A: Keith Kim, Planful’s VP of Finance, on the Being Planful Podcast

Keith Kim, our very own VP of Finance at Planful, recently joined me on the Being Planful podcast. Keith has an interesting career, starting in investment banking and eventually moving into FP&A. During that time, he’s worked at some of the biggest names in technology and has been deeply involved in mergers and acquisitions. 

In this episode, Keith and I discuss the differences between corporate development and FP&A, and the lessons learned transitioning from a highly variable, sometimes chaotic experience in M&A to the more structured, cyclical world of Finance. We also get Keith’s thoughts on what FP&A should prepare for in 2021 and how his role at Planful involves influencing the direction of our Continuous Planning software and solutions. 

Here are a few highlights of this episode.

A Hybrid of Finance and Corporate Development

Keith began his career working on M&A deals from the investment banking side, playing a transactional role with just a glimpse of the entire deal. He quickly moved to the inside, working with a “highly acquisitive” company. That gave him the opportunity to see the entire lifecycle of a transaction, from due diligence through integration, putting him in partnership with product and engineering teams to provide financial insights as they evaluated a potential target. It also brought his finance and M&A skills together. 

“You’re participating in the due diligence, but also seeing what the impact could be to the business as you’re exploring these really exciting technologies and companies,” said Keith. “The roles just go hand in hand. It’s really striking how I had been able to leverage both of those skill sets in one role.” 

But, with finance being, at least traditionally, cyclical and predictable, Keith brought out-of-the-box thinking to the role. With M&A being wildly variable, it also helped prepare Keith for managing the unpredictable side of Finance. 

Enterprise Attitude for Midsize Action

Working on multi-billion dollar deals across huge companies taught Keith many valuable lessons on mobilizing cross-functional resources and working within well-defined processes. But, as he transitioned to run Finance at Planful, Keith enjoyed the luxury of just rolling up his sleeves and getting things done. 

“When you’re smaller, you just take things on,” said Keith. “You just need consensus from maybe one or two other people, and you make things happen. That speed and agility is what makes a smaller company nimble and agile, with quick decision making. But for companies that have bigger aspirations, it behooves them to put efficient processes in place so that as they grow, they’re not laying down debt they’ll have to pay for later.”

That debt avoidance includes controls, collaboration, and automation capabilities that empower Finance to do more, but without adding layers of unnecessary process or human capital. 

Constantly Improving FP&A’s Product

Keith mentioned reporting specifically, as it’s the key product delivered by Finance to the business. He likened good financial insights delivery as having a good product-market fit. So FP&A teams need to think like product marketers and deliver those reports, insights, and dashboards to each audience with the right data, in the right format, and at the right frequency. 

“Just anticipating changes and bringing insights to your business partners is something FP&A should always revisit and refine,” Keith explained. “Because what you reported last year may not be relevant this year. So sometimes you just have to think outside of the box a little bit, understand the pulse of the business, and change the product: your reporting packages.”

Being Ready for Continued Uncertainty

Keith dove deeper into FP&A deliverables, saying it’s not reporting, but insights that the business needs. But that need changes on a regular basis because the business does, too. This past year showed us all the velocity at which change can happen. Looking back, some businesses rebounded in a matter of weeks, while others are still struggling to regain ground. The insights they needed then versus now are drastically different. 

Coming full circle, Keith talked about how he’s taken on a sort of dual role, being both VP of Finance at Planful and working closely with our product development team. His professional experience is used to help our customers build agility, collaboration, and accuracy into their financial processes. In 2021, much of that need also revolves around flexibility so the business can deal with continued uncertainty.

“It just goes to show how adaptable we’ve become,” said Keith. “But, within these new confines, how can FP&A be more efficient and effective? It’s really exciting to see all the new features we have on the roadmap to solve the pain points finance teams have today.”

Subscribe to Being Planful

To hear more about Keith’s M&A days and how he’s in the thick of Continuous Planning at Planful, listen to episode #8 of Being Planful. 

This podcast series explores the benefits of adopting a “Planful” mindset by inviting your FP&A peers, analysts, industry experts, and more, to share their experiences and insights. Podcasting also lets us stay socially-distant while giving you a more flexible way to learn about Continuous Planning, whether it’s watching it on your phone, listening during your morning run, or tuning-in whenever it’s convenient.
If you’d like to subscribe, click on your podcast platform of choice (Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, or Spotify), or just search for “Planful” wherever you listen. I’ll be releasing new episodes often, so be sure to subscribe. And, if you have any comments, questions, or think you’d make a great guest, send me an email at beingplanful@planful.com

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Constellation ShortList™: Planful Named for Ninth Consecutive Year

Constellation ShortList™: Planful Named for Ninth Consecutive Year

Planful has been named—for the ninth consecutive year—to the prestigious Constellation ShortList™ for Cloud-Based Planning Platforms in Q1 2021. This report identifies the top planning platform vendors based on technology investment, use cases, strategic vision, customer value, executive leadership and price. 

Download the Constellation Shortlist™ to see why Planful made the list.

We’re incredibly excited about being named to the ShortList, especially since feedback from our customers drives so much of the decision by Constellation. Unlike other grids, matrices or waves, Constellation bases the ShortList results on conversations with customers and partners, and then combines their own research to identify the leading vendors. For planning platforms specifically, the criteria for selection includes an assessment of each vendor’s ability to deliver, among other things.

  • Rapid cloud deployment and configuration
  • Modern, intuitive interface designed to ease frequent planning cycles
  • Flexible modeling and “what-if” scenario planning capabilities

In addition to this ShortList, Constellation Research also released a report detailing how modern planning platforms are bringing agility and flexibility to businesses as they continue recovering from the pandemic. This report, Modern Planning Platforms Drive Business Agility and Better Outcomes, finds that those organizations which came through 2020 in a relatively good position did so by accelerating their planning and analysis cycles from quarterly or monthly to weekly or even daily. 

Download this Constellation Research “Trends” report to learn more.

In both the ShortList and the related report, Constellation Research points to speed, ease of use, and flexibility as keys to financial planning success. Here’s how Planful stacks up.

Planful is Fast

If you’re a Planful customer, you already know that our solutions are unmatched in the speed of deployment and configuration. We have Planful Now, which gets new customers on our platform in under 30 days for a range of use cases. And, we have customers like Temple University, Smartypants, and others who’ve realized immense benefits in under a month. 

Cheryl Chow, Sr Finance Manager at Smartypants, said, “Implementing Planful in under three weeks allowed us to immediately close out Q1 and quickly re-forecast for the rest of the year.” While David Marino, Controller and Associate Vice President at Temple University, was running on planful in just 4 weeks, remarking that, “The path for our team to start using and getting value from the platform was very fast and remarkably smooth.”

Planful is Easy to Use

Our product updates continue to focus on ease of use, an intuitive user experience, and the ability for everyone in FP&A and beyond to collaborate while raising their financial IQ. Winter21 was recently released, and it brings even more of that ease to our customers. 

“Because of the Planful UI, it was a great and easy transition,” said Tim Zue, Executive Vice President & CFO at Boston Red Sox, in an interview on their use of Planful. “This has been an absolute game changer in our goal of being more efficient and accurate.”

Planful is Flexible

Planful’s longtime presence on the ShortList reflects the company’s continued momentum and success in the cloud FP&A space. Our cloud-based FP&A platform accelerates planning by unifying financial planning, financial close and consolidation, reporting, and visual analytics to help Finance leaders drive faster, and more collaborative, business-wide planning and decision-making cycles.

But today’s uncertain and fast-changing world requires an additional dose of flexibility to truly elevate FP&A to a strategic level within their organizations. With the constant planning, re-planning, and re-everything of 2020, our customers leaned on Planful solutions to accelerate and improve their decision-making, eliminate days from periodic close and consolidation cycles, and provide more insights to every corner of the business. 

Kevin Zell, Strategic Finance Manager at Carta, said, “More than anything, Planful has allowed us to transition into a strategic finance function. We finally have a seat at the table as strategic advisors who help decision-makers across the entire company think through the impacts of their decisions.”

To learn more about Planful’s inclusion in the Constellation ShortList, click here. To download the Modern Planning Platforms Drive Business Agility and Better Outcomes report, click here.

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Speed and Agility: The Ultimate Guide to Continuous Planning

Speed and Agility: The Ultimate Guide to Continuous Planning

Speed and agility. If the pandemic has taught the business world anything, it is the necessity of speed and agility, the ability to respond and adapt in the face of economic turbulence. 

Historically, finance departments have struggled with the concept of agility. There is a significant gap between a company’s regular business activities and the periodic nature of financial operations which thrive on quarterly and year-end reporting standards. Couple that disconnect with a reliance on cumbersome software solutions, and your business is prone to interruptions and inefficiency. Adopting a philosophy of Continuous Planning can align your company’s finance activities with its business operations, mitigating inefficiency in the process. 

What is Continuous Planning?

Continuous Planning is a framework. It is a company-wide shift in corporate culture that aligns the finance department with the entirety of the business’s operations. It encourages uninterrupted planning and decision-making while fostering the democratization of information across your entire enterprise. Under Continuous Planning, every department has access to a wider range of business-critical information, and thus, a higher financial IQ.  

The Continuous Planning philosophy features:

  • Compressed cycle times
  • Finance involved in every corner of the business
  • A more collaborative, business-wide approach to planning
Who Benefits From Continuous Planning?

Corporate culture change can be a difficult undertaking.  You have to ask yourself, “Is Continuous Planning a good fit for my business?”

Your enterprise may benefit from Continuous Planning if your FP&A team feels their process has become slow and cumbersome. Continuous Planning can help if your team feels that financial planning activities have become reactive rather than proactive. Continuous Planning is for companies whose financial department is locked in “fire drill” mode rather than being a strategic advisor. 

What Does Continuous Planning Look Like?

The Continuous Planning framework is divided into four phases of progress and maturity:

The static phase is defined by data silos. Each department’s systems and information are discrete, and there is little exchange between finance and the rest of the enterprise. What little exchange exists is often ineffective and time-consuming. 

The modernized phase is marked by the advent of some automation through the use of FP&A software, but the effect of the automation doesn’t extend past finance. 

The expanding phase marks a shift toward a business-wide Continuous Planning process. Automation now extends to include other departments such as sales and marketing. The only thing holding it back is the division of investment in the automation. 

Phase four is the continuous phase, and it represents the pinnacle of your company’s cultural shift. Finance serves in a more strategic capacity and is involved in all aspects of the business. 

Selecting the Right Continuous Planning Platform

They say it takes a village to raise a child. Implementing Continuous Planning is similar. It involves selecting the right steering team and defining their roles. It also requires buy-in from members of the executive team. They have to be vocal proponents of Continuous Planning. 

The steering committee will consist of the company’s financial department, but they must take care to involve operations and IT as well. The earlier you involve a multi-disciplinary team, the better. That way all members are in alignment with the program’s requirements. After that, it is a matter of making a case for Continuous Planning to your company’s senior leadership. 

A good Continuous Planning program should include:

  • A comprehensive platform including analytics, reporting, and financial planning
  • A collaborative, business-wide design
  • A cloud-based, SaaS foundation
  • A customized user experience 
Speed and Agility Through Continuous Planning

The ability to shift directions and respond to ever-changing market conditions has become more crucial than ever. In order to develop that kind of financial agility, every department must move as a seamless unit, driven by a strong foundation of actionable, financial data. Companies can no longer afford to let fractured reporting practices interrupt the finance department and its role as chief strategist. 

To find out more about Continuous Planning, visit Planful.com today and download the full white paper.

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Being Planful: Helpful FP&A Resources

Being Planful: Helpful FP&A Resources

Finance chiefs continue to be optimistic about 2021, so experts and surveyed CFOs suggest FP&A can now renew their focus on sustainability, build tighter connections with HR, and continue making investments in digital transformation. Of course, there’s also continued uncertainty to worry about. But, each of these efforts, particularly digital transformation, will prepare your company for whatever that uncertainty might bring. To keep you current, below are a few insights into how Finance and FP&A leaders are moving forward. We’ve found these articles helpful, and we hope you do, too.

2021 Outlook

CFO Dive: Middle market CFOs predict ‘extraordinary’ growth in 2021

Most CFOs at mid-market companies say 2021 is the year for economic recovery and revenue growth, according to a new survey by BDO. Part of the reason comes from new expansion opportunities presented during the pandemic, which more than one-third of companies say they’ll realize this year. Another benefit was the accelerated digital transformation that resulted in faster decision-making. “Changes to the marketplace mean new and untapped potential to seek advantage, but companies must ensure their operational and digital strategy reflects new realities.”

WSJ: CFOs Prepare for Long-Term Shifts in Customer Demand as Pandemic Drags On

While some CFOs are preparing for growth, others are trying to understand how changing customer behaviors will impact their businesses in the long run. This is especially true for those in transportation, hospitality, retail, and other industries. A recent survey of CFOs found that nearly all (86%) said their top priority is to help their businesses “adapt and thrive.” More telling, as those CFOs became crucial to company survival during 2020, “their roles are fundamentally and forever changed, in a good way, for those who will be able to step up.”

Deloitte / WSJ: Economic Brief: Weighing A Roaring ’20s Recovery

Many are hoping the 2020s mimic the decade of economic growth experienced exactly a century ago. That decade also followed a global pandemic and was defined by improved living standards and immense stock market growth. Of course, the U.S. also experienced deflation, the decade ended with the beginning of the Great Depression, and it ushered in the rise of global authoritarianism. “So, in answer to the question of whether the economy of the 2020s will be like the 1920s, my answer is that I certainly hope not.”

CFO Thought Leadership

Harvard Business Review: How to Talk to Your CFO About Sustainability

Corporate sustainability initiatives have been proven contributors to positive financial performance. But many CFOs struggle to connect financial metrics with sustainability efforts, such as emissions or waste reductions. A new methodology hopes to change that by making Return on Sustainability Investment (ROSI) the default for measuring the financial returns from innovation, efficiency, and customer loyalty driven by sustainability initiatives. Tying those projects to dollars makes it easier to see the tangible results. “Bringing the CFO fully onboard requires showing that proposed sustainability activities will meet the company’s required ROI on a project.”

Forbes: Growth-Minded CFOs Weigh The Costs Of Forecasting Rigor

Our own CFO, Shane Hansen, recently joined a panel of his “growth-minded” peers to talk about the importance of accurate and data-driven forecasting. Prior to the pandemic, companies tended to favor overly optimistic forecasts. That then made it difficult to justify investments outside of sales and growth. But, with FP&A successfully guiding companies through the pandemic, they now have the strategic capital to push broader, equally-important initiatives. “We are asking, ‘How do we spend prudently this quarter, and what investments do we need to make next quarter?’”

CFO Dive: CFOs increasingly tasked with healthcare management costs

Rising healthcare costs are bringing more CFOs into HR conversations, with nearly 60% saying they would be increasingly making such decisions in collaboration with HR. It’s yet one more area in which HR and Finance are forging a closer relationship for holistic workforce planning. “CFOs appear better positioned to meet the needs of their workforces in comparison to 2019, especially in driving innovative approaches.”

Digital Transformation

CFO Dive: For post-pandemic world, put extra cash in IT

The pandemic accelerated digital transformation for nearly every company. But now is definitely not the time to pull back on those efforts, experts say, especially in Finance. Productivity, increased growth, speed, and more controls are just a few of the FP&A benefits of continued transformation. And, increased modernization will better prepare companies for tomorrow’s inevitable market uncertainty. “These transformational investments drive growth in part because they enhance the ability to outpace competitors.”

CFO Dive: 4 ways CFOs can cut waste in spending on the cloud

The accelerated pace of digital transformation in 2020 pushed some to spend more for the sake of just getting it done quickly. Now it’s time for FP&A to take an educated look at where that money is going so they can separate the good from the bad. “Financial executives with a detailed understanding of how cloud spending generates revenue will sooner recognize a jump in cloud spending as a signal of opportunity from greater customer demand rather than an indication of inefficiency or waste.”

Deloitte / WSJ: C-Suite Insights: 5 Attributes of Resilient Organizations

A common refrain over the past year has been that the uncertainty and chaos of 2020 wouldn’t end on December 31st. Agility, flexibility, visibility, and speed are now seen as imperative to a company’s competitiveness and future growth. But those traits aren’t required to avoid chaos, they’re required to deal with the impact and get your business quickly back on track. “(Digital transformation) can help organizations navigate other types of disruptions, such as increased competition and technological upheaval from Industry 4.0.”

Stay Tuned for More Useful FP&A Content

Check back for these occasional resource roundups with links to timely, helpful, and thought-provoking content for FP&A and CFOs. If you have comments, questions, or suggestions, please engage with us on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

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